Archaeologists reveal mummified cats and scarab beetles found in recently discovered tombs near Cairo.
Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a collection of mummified cats and scarab beetles in a series of ancient tombs.
Antiquities minister Khaled el-Enany said the discovery was made by an Egyptian archaeological mission during excavation work started in April.
Three of the tombs had been used for cats, he said, while one of four other sarcophagi discovered at the site was unopened.
The finds, dating back more than 4,000 years, were made at Saqqara, south of Cairo. The vast burial ground served the city of Memphis – ancient Egypt’s capital for 2,000 years.
The Tomb dating back to old kingdom:
The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom and is unusual because the facade and door are intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area. He said experts plan to explore it in the coming weeks.
Mostafa Waziri, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the mission had also unearthed the first mummies of scarabs to be found in the area.
Two such mummies were found inside a rectangular limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted lid decorated with three scarabs painted in black, he said.
Another collection of scarab mummies was found inside a smaller sarcophagus.
Ancient Egyptians believed cats, and other animals, held a special position in the afterlife.
One of the tombs held a bronze statue dedicated to a cat goddess.
Scarabs also held religious significance and could symbolise the sun god, Ra. Mostafa Waziri, of Egypt’s antiquities council, said the discovery of mummified scarabs was “something really a bit rare”.
Humans were mummified to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animals were mummified as religious offerings.
In all, seven sarcophagi were discovered on the edge of the King Userkaf pyramid complex. Three of them held cats.
Further work at the site in Saqqara is planned. Archaeologists found the door to another tomb that remains sealed and they plan to open it in the coming weeks.
The newly found tombs lie in a buried ridge that has only partially been excavated. Experts say it could offer many more discoveries.